Maui group criticizes
state over water supply

The state disputes the trigger
levels that would spur it to
take control of aquifers

WAILUKU >> The Maui Meadows Homeowners Association criticized the state yesterday for "ignoring its own order" to automatically take control of the underground water supply in Waihee in central Maui when water levels dropped.

State of Hawaii The Waihee aquifer, along with its neighboring Iao aquifer, serve as principal sources of water for central Maui, including Kahului, Wailuku, south Maui and Paia.

The 200-member association last year asked the state water commission to take control of the Waihee aquifer and accused the county of mismanaging the ground water.

The water commission decided instead to establish trigger levels that, if exceeded, would allow the state to take control automatically.

One of the trigger levels was that well water could not go below a six-foot water benchmark. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Monday that the water level at the Kanoa Test Well at the Waihee aquifer was actually 2 feet lower than originally believed and also past the trigger level.

Administrator Ernest Lau said his division planned to recommend against taking control of the county ground water at Waihee.

Lau, deputy director of the Commission on Water Resource Management, said the trigger level should have been different because the initial evaluation of the aquifer was incorrect. Water level and quality have remained the same, he said, and officials don't see any reason for alarm.

Lau said his office will recommend further tests by the state, the county and U.S. Geological Survey to get "a better idea of what's happening with the aquifer."

The county is pumping about 4.7 million gallons a day from the Waihee aquifer, where officials have estimated the sustainable yield at 8 million gallons a day.

Lau said he doesn't know why the initial evaluation was incorrect but doesn't think the error was intentional.

Kapua Sproat, an EarthJustice attorney representing the homeowners association, said indications that the Waihee aquifer may be in danger require the state to take protective action.

"By using this new information as an opportunity to go back on its word, the commission has it completely backward," Sproat said.

The water commission took over the Iao aquifer on July 21 when it hit trigger levels.

"Any action short of automatic designation of the Waihee aquifer is based on pure politics, not science," homeowners association Vice President Jim Williamson said.

While the county continues to operate the Iao aquifer, the state has the power to determine how much water is used and who can pump water from it.

Existing well owners have until July 21 to apply for a water use permit with the commission.

State officials plan to present the new information about Waihee water levels at the water commission meeting next Wednesday. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the state Land Board chairman's room at the Kalanimoku Building at 1151 Punchbowl St. in Honolulu.


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